Thursday, 22 February 2018

Elm, Cambridgeshire

All Saints, locked, keyholder listed - well technically yes but... A badly drawn map by the south porch indicates the key being held in the village shop which, despite spending some time doing so, I was unable to locate. It would be churlish of me to note it as LNK but that, to my mind, is what it is. Anyhow I am reliably informed it contains little of interest and I liked the exterior.

ALL SAINTS. The W tower is the earliest and finest part of the church, clearly E.E. and similar to West Walton and Walsoken in Norfolk. The buttresses are of the type called clasping, big and polygonal, as at Leverington. The W door is still round-arched. The W windows are three lancets on a nailhead frieze. They are not shafted but have plain chamfered surrounds. On the N and S sides there is a blank arcading instead, and above tall slim lancets set in tall blank arcades with shafts and shaftrings.* The bell-stage has twin openings, also E.E. The top is later, with battlements, turret pinnacles and a small recessed lead spire. The E side of the tower towards the nave has an arch which goes with the rest. The former roof-line of the nave is visible above it, which proves that the clerestory, in spite of its ten typically C13 lancet windows, must be a little later than the arcade below.* This is of six bays - i.e. does not match the clerestory - with alternating round and octagonal piers (alternating also between N and S). The arches are double-chamfered. The E.E. nave had aisles and they also survive materially, in spite of alterations to the windows. Both doorways are E.E. too, that on the N side with seven orders of colonnettes and very fine arch mouldings. E.E. also the odd sturdy demi-piers against the outer walls of both aisles just E of the doorways. What can their purpose have been? Were they to carry transverse arches? The present arcade does not allow for any and is indeed not in line with them. The rere-arches of windows in the N and S aisles are shafted in the same C13 style. Finally the chancel belongs to the same century, see the chancel arch with the remarkable blank tracery above, the window shapes, the round-headed N doorways and the odd blocked S recess. The windows were filled with simple Dec tracery, probably at the time when most aisle windows were similarly remodelled (E window C19). Perp only a few windows and the double-hammerbeam roof - a modest variation on the more sumptuous theme of March (and many Norfolk and Suffolk churches), also with angels, but again much less splendid ones than at March. - PLATE. Chalice of 1753; Flagon of 1639.

* The three lower stages were refaced in the C19.
* This clerestory seems genuine, though Cole in his drawing at the British Museum shows windows of two lights.

All Saints (3)

ELM. Its glory is not in its elms, for we found not one in this trim village of trees and orchards; we remember it for the stately tower which has stood like a fortress for 700 years, except that its top is new, crowned by a small spire. The tower is 70 feet high with beautiful arcading, a west doorway with rich mouldings and three shafts on each side, and turrets climbing with every stage. Its architecture is characteristic of the best type in the county, and may be compared with some of the gateway towers of Cambridge Colleges. We found red snapdragons growing in its crannies.

And not less impressive is the tower inside, for the beauty of its wide arch and the lovely lancets round the walls. In front of the west lancets tall clustered columns form a triforium from the turret stairway to a tiny cell in another turret, below which is another little chamber on the ground floor. High above the tower arch is a primitive little window with a gable top through which the light may have fallen in Saxon days. It is now blocked up.

It is from this fine tower that we see the beauty of these medieval arcades, the 20 medieval clerestory windows, and the impressive roof of double hammerbeams. The clerestory windows have shafts and rich hoods; the roof is adorned with angels, and in the spandrels are dragons and flowers, a pelican with its young, and two rowing ships on the sea.

We come into this impressive place, so little changed since the 13th century, by its original doorways, both richly moulded, one of them with seven shafts on each side, making a beautiful arch.

The traveller who finds himself a mile or so away at Friday Bridge may be fortunate enough to see a storied relic of Oliver Cromwell  preserved at Needham Hall. It is an oak table from the old house of that name which stood here, and it is said that Cromwell slept on the table, so that he should be no better lodged than his soldiers.

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